The Astana cemetery in the vicinity of Turfan

The ancient cemetery of Astana - important historical artifacts in the vicinity of Turfan

The history of Turpan is rich and diverse. Once, this city was a stronghold of Buddhism, there appeared and disappeared cities, and rulers waged a fierce struggle for the possession of Turpan. Today, only the ruins of cities and temples remind of those long-forgotten days. One of the most famous monuments of Turpan history is considered the “dead city” Gaochang with extant ruler’s houses and part of the palace, ruins of Buddhist temples and monasteries.

However, not only the city itself is of interest. A few kilometers away in the Gobi Desert there is an ancient cemetery – the Astana graves, where the Gaochang inhabitants were buried since the III century BC. The scientists have discovered more than 500 graves. Thanks to the items found in the graves, they managed to identify the graves of the rulers, nobles and ordinary peasants. In addition, the researchers thanks to the found object got to know the features of everyday life and economic activities of the citizens, which enabled them to get a clearer picture of the Gaochan history. The discovery of the burial ground has become one of the most important ones in the history of Turpan because they found various archival materials, which are now called “The Turpan letters”.

The tourists are allowed to visit only three graves, but the territory of the cemetery has not only burial grounds, but also sculptures and tombs covered with paintings and frescoes. Many of them are the tenets of Confucianism while the others are of distinct Buddhist character. In addition, there are murals that tell about the creation of the Chinese people by two deities - Goddess Nuwa and God Fuxi, ancestors of the Chinese nation. Their particular sculpture is the central one in the ancient cemetery territory.